Helping Children Wait for Easter

February 24, 2010

A child prayingIt occurs to me that most Christian adults navigate Lent through some pretty serious spiritual practices by reevaluating their lives, rededicating themselves to God, and engaging in often tough disciplines such as daily prayers, personal deprivations, special service projects, and fasting. But can we help children find meaning in such Lenten practices?

Already in stores we see signs of “Easter”…plastic eggs and baskets, stuffed bunnies, candy—all items that can derail a parent’s commitment to making Lent a spiritual journey for everyone in the family. How can we include children in the Lenten preparations for Easter?

In Gateways to Worship, Carolyn C. Brown suggests that we teach children that, “Lent is a time to wait for Easter by finding ways to be closer to God. Purple is the color for both Advent and Lent because in both seasons we wait for the coming of the King. Unlike Advent, Lent includes no special songs, stories or rituals that are obvious to children. Therefore our goals are simply that children recognize Lent as the time we wait for Easter and know its color to be purple. Children are already familiar with a variety of prayers we use in congregational worship and they should be grasping the concept that we can worship and pray at any time and in any place.”

A good prayer focus for your children during Lent is learning the Lord’s Prayer. Read Matthew 6:9-14 and tell the story of the time when Jesus’ friends asked him to teach them how to pray. Each week of Lent you can focus on one line of the prayer. Ask children what they think the words of the prayer mean. Make placemats for your dinner table and write the Lord’s Prayer on it; use the prayer for your mealtime thanks and grace.

Faith at Home advises that “In addition to the typical Lenten activities, which young children will probably not understand fully, enrich your family life during Lent in other ways. Choose activities, stories, and play that highlight things coming to life, or the sparseness and simplicity of the season, or themes of Easter to come. A twig’s green wood underneath a scraped-away outer layer. Budding and blooming plants. A simplified home décor. Quiet evenings enjoying each others’ company without the television. Delicious, simple meals of good soup and bread. Finally, begin to look ahead, in your storytelling, playtime, books, and more, to the great stories of Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter.”

Keep Lent simple and focused: get close to God and stay close to God…through prayer and simple family activities.

Amen.


Ashes: Finding My Way through Lent

February 17, 2010

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what my Lenten practice might be this year. In the past, for the six weeks before Easter, I’ve “given up” Pepsi, chocolate, TV. I’ve done a once-a-week Lenten fast. I’ve practiced “taking on” something, such as extra prayer time, a service project.

This year I’m going to do something different: I am going to commit to 30 minutes a day of complete silence [no books, no music, no TV, no computer, no phone, no visiting] … in order to read scripture and listen to what God is calling me to do in my community.

I am inspired to do this as a Lenten practice by a book by Laurie Beth Jones entitled Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership. In one of her devotionals, she writes about “the call to leadership coming from many directions and in many ways”. She shares that “the Old Testament indicates there three ways we are called: the burning heart, the burning bush, and the burning house”.

David had a burning heart, leading him to go and fight on behalf of his people. Moses experienced the burning bush which called him to lead God’s people to freedom. Esther was faced with a burning house —the Jewish nation which was certainly to be destroyed—and answering God’s call, she risked her life to save it.

Last spring after Easter services, our church burned the palm branches and saved the ashes in a jar for use in this year’s Ash Wednesday worship. The story of God’s people demonstrates that out of the most difficult situations, from the most ordinary people, come leaders who are inspired by their circumstances and who are equipped by God to do the task. When things were “burning”, David found his bravery, Moses found his inspiration, and Esther her courage. From the ashes came great leadership for meaningful missions.

This Lent, marked at the beginning by the ashes from the old palm branches, I make a new commitment to an old practice as I seek to serve God in my town.

What is God calling you to do?

For more information on discerning God’s call on your life, view The LOGOS Ministry’s webinar “Hey You!” available at http://www.logosresources.com/


A Valentine for Children

February 10, 2010
Red Grammer

Image courtesy of RedGrammer.com

I love Red Grammer. He writes and sings songs for children. I like that he loves and respects children and that his songs are about oneness, character, conflict resolution, and community. One of my favorites is “I Think You’re Wonderful” and it goes like this:

If we practice this phrase in the most honest way
And find something special in someone each day
We’ll lift up the world one heart at a time
It all starts by saying this one simple line…

I think you’re wonderful
When somebody says that to me
I feel wonderful, as wonderful can be
It makes me wanta to say the same thing to somebody new
And by the way I’ve been meaning to say
I think you’re wonderful, too

When each one of us feels important inside
Loving and giving and glad we’re alive
Oh what a difference we’ll make in each day
And all because someone decided to say…

I think you’re wonderful
When somebody says that to me
I feel wonderful, as wonderful can be
It makes me wanta to say the same thing to somebody new
And by the way I’ve been meaning to say
I think you’re wonderful, too

Teaching Peace © 1986 Smilin’ Atcha Music, Inc.

Recently as I listened to this lovely song, I wondered: how many of us love others conditionally? Most parents know and understand the value of affirming cooperation and positive behavior in children. We seek to find accomplished tasks to applaud and conduct to praise on the road to building obedient, productive, responsible children. Good job, Tommy! Nice picture, Billy! Thanks for taking out the trash, Greg!

Does God love us because we just are or because of what we do?

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1 New International Version)

God is love. If we keep on loving others, we will stay one in our hearts with God, and he will stay one with us. (1 John 4:16 Contemporary English Version)

It doesn’t matter if you are a Greek or a Jew, or if you are circumcised or not. You may even be a barbarian or a Scythian, and you may be a slave or a free person. Yet Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. (Colossians 3:11-12 Contemporary English Version)

I could keep listing scripture, but you get my drift: nothing in these passages about being loved because of good work or taking out the trash. What we read is a reassurance that God has always loved us, goes on loving us no matter what, and wants us to actively love others just as God does.

I know, I know. Valentine’s Day is basically a Hallmark holiday…regarded as a romantic time for couples. But hey, how about joining me in expanding the usual Valentine message about love? This Valentine’s Day, reflect the unconditional love God has lavished on you onto those around you, especially your children. Take a moment to lift a child’s heart by saying “I think you’re wonderful”… period.

Amen.

Learn more about the importance of healthy, Christian relationships by viewing “God & You & Me” a new webinar from The LOGOS Ministry. Go to http://www.logosresources.com for more description and price.


Acceleration: Parenting in a Fast-moving World

February 3, 2010

I don’t own a Toyota car. Never have—no special reason, just never have. These days, however, I am glad that I am not dealing with a car that can accelerate out of control.

Imagine starting off on a routine drive, only to find yourself careening down the highway with your children in the back seat, unable to stop your car. Unthinkable. Horrifying.

Sometimes being a parent can feel like you are in an out-of-control car. Each stage of growth and development brings its own set of issues and challenges. How do parents find their way through these issues and challenges while needing to…continuing to…steer the family?

God provides all that we need to be the person God means us to be. God also surrounds us with all the resources we need to be effective parents. We are to live boldly, and openly seek out those resources that can support us as God’s children, and as parents of our own children.

Are you living up to God’s loving expectation for you?
What kind of example do you set for your children?
Does your life as a parent feel out of control?
Who inspires you to be a better parent?

Toyota advises drivers to shift into neutral when they find the accelerator stuck. Good general advice for life! This week, when family issues threaten to send you careening, shift into neutral: find a quiet time and space and spend some time with God. Give thanks for your life and ask God to reveal to you the people and resources you need to be fully the person God intends, and the loving parent your children deserve.

Amen.

Two resources that can help support the spiritual growth of your family are available from The LOGOS Ministry: LOGOS @Home [$9.95 for 52 sessions for family nights; go to http://www.thelogosstore.org] and the FREE heartfelt online newsletter [monthly; sign up at http://www.thelogosministry.org/heartfelt.html].